Judo: Gordon focused on Europe

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WINSTON GORDON is 21, 6ft 1in, 90 kilos and cool. He typifies a new kind of British judo fighter - young men and women who possess an international view of the sport even before they have truly established themselves as regular representatives of their country.

Gordon often trains abroad and has fought for French and German clubs, where established competition circuits exist which have yet to develop in the UK. And although he won the British Open last year, there will be a different determination tomorrow at the indoor arena in Birmingham, when he steps on to the mat for the 1998 event.

This time he has been pre-selected for his middleweight category in the European Championships at Oviedo, Spain next month - chosen above Ryan Birch, the former European champion who, at over 30, must be wondering about his future.

Six weeks ago, when they met in the German Open, Gordon threw Birch twice to win a bronze and book his ticket to Spain. Birch - who has had a long and varied career at light middle and middleweight - is not giving up yet, however, and if both survive early rounds against foreign opposition it could be a fierce confrontation in the final.

In the women's division Debbie Allan, from Camberley, will also want to win the Open to prove that her selection for Oviedo in preference to the former world champion Nicola Fairbrother was justified.

Similarly the ongoing battle between two talented light heavyweights, Chloe Cowan and Michele Rogers, continues today. Cowan has the upper hand after recent successes in Europe and has won European selection. She has done better than Rogers in managing the change from under 72 kilos to under 78 kilos in the weight category.

But the 19-year-old heavyweight Karina Bryant, who won the Commonwealth Judo Championships two weeks ago, will be testing herself more against opponents from France and Germany on her way to a promising international career.

The British Open remains a B tournament and, as it is open to any black belt, is one of the few genuinely "open" events on the European circuit. But to maintain Britain's standing as a leading judo nation, a first A contest is scheduled for November.

Yet questions still surround the future management of the British teams. Mark Earle and Diane Bell are currently caretaker coaches for the men's and women's divisions respectively. But there is still no sign of the announcement of a new figure, with responsibility for organising and training Britain's crop of new young stars, in time to produce the expected medal victories from the World Championships at Birmingham in October, 1999.